Former University of Kentucky star Nerlens Noel, who had to sit out his first NBA season while recovering from an ACL injury, returned to competitive basketball by scoring a game-high 19 points for the Philadelphia 76ers' summer-league squad on Saturday afternoon in Orlando.
Noel opened the game by winning the tip and using some deft footwork in the post to score his first basket on a dunk about 20 seconds in.
"It was great. Just to be able to snap all of the jitters out of me, just feel good about the rest of the game," Noel said of scoring on his first shot attempt. "I was confident from there on."
Noel was active on both ends of the floor during the Sixers' 83-77 loss to the Orlando Magic. He had four steals, three assists, two rebounds and one blocked shot in just more than 26 minutes of playing time.
"It’s been 18 months — a long, patient wait," Noel said. "Sitting out last season was tough. I had to be patient, watching other guys in the league. ... I’ve learned a lot and I’ve worked on my game diligently."
Noel told the announcers after the game that he has put on 10 to 15 pounds, but his wiry frame is still a work in progress.
"I definitely feel a lot stronger," he said. "I’ve got to continue to put on weight and work on my body. As that comes along, I feel like my game will continue to evolve."
Noel was 6-for-11 from the field, and he was perfect from the free-throw line (7-for-7).
"We’ve been working on my free throws," he said. "I felt confident today at the line. I knocked down all my free throws. I've spent a lot of time in the gym and I’m thankful to have such a great coaching staff that works with me so diligently."
Despite the solid start, Noel said he's looking forward to getting more games under his belt in Orlando, and in the Las Vegas Summer League, too.
"I just got to work on my stamina a little bit so I can continue to play at that high level," he said.
■ Marquis Teague scored 14 points and had six assists in the Brooklyn Nets' 101-81 victory against the Indiana Pacers. Teague was 4-for-11 from the field and 6-for-6 at the free-throw line.
■ James Young, drafted 17th overall by the Boston Celtics, sat out the team's 85-77 summer-league victory against the Miami Heat. It was unclear whether Young, who injured his neck in a minor pre-draft car accident, will be able to play in the event at all. He hasn't been able to practice fully with his teammates.
■ DeAndre Liggins had seven points, seven rebounds, five steals and one blocked shot in the Detroit Pistons' 95-89 summer-league win against the Rockets. Liggins was 2-for-3 from the field.